Knock on wood, but I am so lucky to have had beautiful weather for the three centuries, and most of the other bike rides, that I’ve done to date. For the Flying Wheels Summer Century 2014 on Saturday, May 31, the sun was out the entire day, the temperatures stayed in the 70s, and there was enough cloud cover for me to avoid a sunburn.
I’d been wanting to do the 100-mile version of this annual ride for a couple of years now. In both 2012 and 2013, I rode the 65-mile version — which I greatly enjoyed — but never could start early enough in the morning to do the full century. The Flying Wheels routes start and end at Redmond’s Marymoor Park (eastern side) and loop through east King and east Snohomish counties. (See course map.)
This year, I committed to doing the century, and got up early enough to cross the starting line at 7:43 a.m. Also this year, the Cascade Bicycle Club, which sponsors the Flying Wheels ride, began advertising the distance as 96.1 miles (not 100). Likewise, they said the 65-miler was officially 63 miles, and the 45-miler was actually 40.7 miles. Truth in advertising is a good thing, I guess.
But even though it was officially a 96-mile ride, I personally rode a bit more than 100 miles on Saturday. How this happened was that I erroneously rode about five extra miles — and unnecessarily climbed a steep, difficult hill — when I rode off-course in Snohomish County. Not a big deal, but it cost me about 30 minutes, plus a bit of stress.
What was new to me in doing the 100, oops, 96-mile version this year was the 33-mile loop up through Snohomish and Monroe. The rest of the ride, I knew. In the Flying Wheels, at the 31-mile mark (of the 96- and 63-mile routes), you are at a stoplight heading west on Woodinville-Duvall Road at the West Snoqualmie Valley Road intersection. If you want to do 96 miles, you turn right and ride that extra Snohomish County loop. If you want to go 63 miles, you go left and remain in King County.
For the past two years, I’ve turned left, though I’d been tempted to turn right. I didn’t, because riding the century would have had me finish too late in the day. As I said, I got started earlier this year, so I was able to turn right. But I was not totally familiar with the Snohomish County loop, even though the organizers do a decent job of marking the roads.
So what happened? I correctly followed a turn onto Welsh Road just before Snohomish, but incorrectly followed two riders who continued on Welsh Road. Turns out, these riders weren’t in the Flying Wheels ride at all. I was impressed as they worked their way up the challenging, rolling hill, and I was going to conquer the hill as well. Well, I did, but got to the top and saw intersections and streets that were not listed on the course map. I was lost.
Interestingly enough, I’d seen another rider, who looked like he had a Flying Wheels bib on his back, riding down the hill that I was climbing. He gave me a surprised look. It appears that he’d veered off-course as well. But I wasn’t going back down that hill until I was absolutely sure I knew where I was going (i.e., I did not want to have to re-climb that hill). So I saw a guy mowing his lawn and asked for directions. Thankfully, he got me on the right path back to the course.
And fortunately, back on the course, I was able to ride through Snohomish with a couple of guys doing the ride. I lost them when they stopped and I kept going, so I rode alone through Monroe and back into King County. But I stayed on course. (But not without stopping and checking my map a few times.)
Here are my highlights of the entire ride:
- Great turnout, again: This ride has taken place since 1993, and is one of the Cascade club’s most popular events. Hundreds of riders participate each year. I do not have an estimated turnout, but most volunteers said it was larger than normal because of the great weather. It was nice to see a stronger turnout of women riders — perhaps 30 to 35 percent of the total. (In running events, you have 60-plus percent women, but bicycling is the reverse.)
- Tough last hill: As the ride wore on, I wore out (after all, it was my second challenging ride in six days). The three-mile ascent up the east side of the Sammamish Plateau (at the 80-mile mark) is not a fun climb for a worn-out rider. I rode with a father-daughter duo (I think) who were equally as spent. Riding together, we mustered enough energy to conquer the steep and lengthy hill. The remaining 12 miles of the ride back to Marymoor Park were mostly downhill or flat.
- Tougher first hill: Inglewood Hill Road, a left turn off East Lake Sammamish Parkway about four miles into the ride, is an extremely steep half-mile trek to deal with early on. You can hear the riders panting. For a second straight year, I walked my bike up a section of it to conserve energy. There are four other tough hills in the ride (including the aforementioned one), but this is the steepest.
- Fun ride through downtown Snohomish: As I said, I hadn’t ridden this way before, and enjoyed the chance to see Snohomish‘s quaint downtown shops.
- This century also took me nine hours: Slowly but surely, I am riding faster. But the ride off-course cost me time, so I ended up with about nine hours of riding time, similar to my previous two centuries. On the plus side, I finished accident-free and without a flat tire.
My plan was to run a couple of legs of this Saturday’s Rainier-to-Ruston Relay. I recently switched jobs, leaving Zones to become senior marketing editor at Edifecs in Bellevue, but before I left Zones, I committed to running this event. Turns out that others on our Zones team opted out, so we don’t have a team anymore. So I won’t be doing that relay.
I must make a decision soon on doing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon (or half) on June 21. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading! Till next time.